One of the most interesting parts of our stay with the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP), in Haiti’s Central Plateau, was the group’s principled take on agriculture.
As a child of industrial agriculture (and also as an employee of a company that publishes Organic Life magazine and whose founder, J.I. Rodale, started the organic movement), it was fascinating to hear MPP’s critique of it. At the same time, it was hard to wrap my head around their complete dismissal of it.
The critique is pretty simple: industrial agriculture is dependent on non-natural products (chemical fertilizers, large machinery, oil, GMO and productized seeds) and practices that, if allowed, would exploit the rural peasants of Haiti. It’s unsustainable, not in its yields but in its impact on the planet. And it takes away independence and food sovereignty from native people.
All that is true. And at the same time, industrial agriculture allows for most people to not be full-time or primarily farmers and instead to diversify what people do. Even a couple hours last week were enough to convince me that I was uninterested in devoting 4-6 hours daily to raising my own food. And even if I was, I don’t think enough of the industrialized world is going to be willing to retrace its steps in that way.
So I don’t see Americans moving to MPP’s model any more than the other way around.
And that’s fine, I think. This is not a binary problem; it’s not one way or the other. The answer is a middle way, or hundreds, maybe thousands or tens of thousands of middle ways, that maintain heightened yields while containing the environmental impact and respecting people’s rights to self-determination and food sovereignty.
The middle way lies between Haiti and the U.S. mainland. I set my intention to being open to the middle way.